A long time ago in the mind of a concept artist not so far away, design work for the Star Wars universe’s second entry was underway. The artist probably had no idea that The Empire Strikes Back would go on to not only be revered as a seminal work of science-fiction, but also possess one of most iconic logos in the genre. Compact but sleek, its aesthetic works well alongside the likes of its predecessor from 1977, while also distinctly giving the sequel its own flavor.
The masterful work is credited to Ralph McQuarrie, one of the driving forces behind George Lucas’ entire original Star Wars trilogy, whose ideas shaped the cinematic look and feel of the Star Wars universe almost as much as Lucas himself. But Empire’s logo didn’t come to be overnight, and a series of concept sketches have surfaced online showing several of the iterations that The Empire Strikes Back’s logo went through before McQuarrie and Lucas struck gold.
The concepts shown are very different logo compared to what would eventually make its way to the final product, with many of the unused designs showing that McQuarrie tried to attain a Broadway-esque stage motif through the use of symmetrical banners and curtains overarching the lettering. The artist was also experimenting with color schemes that are a far cry from the final logo, which had lettering that ended up portraying a simple, yet striking white.
When McQuarrie, whose design credits also include C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader among so many other iconic characters and settings from the galaxy far, far away, passed away at the age of 82 back in 2012, George Lucas released a statement commemorating his legendary career, saying, “Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’”